Steve Chatterton | Writer, dog walker, father of two, husband of one

Working Faster in Scrivener with Additional Substitutions


In the previous article on Working Faster in Scrivener with Auto-Complete List we examined a way to pre-populate a list of auto-complete suggestions specific to the document you’re currently working in so little lists will pop-up as you type, allowing you to quickly select words from that menu and save yourself a little time in the long run.

This article is going to deal with enabling additional substitutions, allowing you to use shorthand for long chunks of text you find yourself typing over and over. For instance, if you write about science often, sometimes you’ll need the long form of a term, like deoxyribonucleic acid. It’s usually shortened to DNA, but sometimes you’ll have to write it out in full, and perhaps look up the spelling.

By enabling additional substitutions you can program a unique text string, such as ‘dna/’ to represent the longer string ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’ so that when you type ‘dna/’ Scrivener automatically converts the text to ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’ for you. I recommend using a dedicated escape character, like ‘/’, to delineate the end of a shorthand snippet. If not, typing the name ‘Edna’ would result in the automatic conversion to ‘Edeoxyribonucleic acid’, and nobody wants that.

Bear in mind that additional substitutions are not document specific and will be available in every document you work on so long as additional substitutions are enabled. This could be a blessing or a curse depending on your situation.

The Nuts and Bolts of How to Do It

Go to Tools/Options and click on Corrections. At the bottom of the Options pane is a section called Substitutions followed by a checklist. The last item on that list says ‘Enable additional substitutions’ — make sure that box is checked.

Below and to the right you’ll find a button that reads ‘Edit substitutions…’ Clicking on that opens another pane called Substitutions. Here is where you build your list of snippets.

Click on the ‘+’ button (bottom left) to open yet another pane. You’ll see two text boxes, one labeled ‘Replace:’ and the other labelled ‘With:’ Type ‘dna/’ in the Replace box and ‘deoxyribonucleic acid’ in the With box to get the handy-dandy DNA example for you, or start building your own list to suit your own purposes.

Auto-Correct You Most Common Typos

Do you mispell misspell a lot of words? If so, it’s additional substitutions to the rescue for you.

Click the ‘+’ button and fill in ‘teh’ for Replace and ‘the’ for With and you’ll never spell have ‘teh’ pop up in a document again.

But what if you want ‘teh’ in a document. Say you have a story that takes place with lots of internet references. Then open the Substitutions list again to replace ‘teh/’ with ‘teh’. I know, the shorthand is actually longer in this example, but life is quirky and so is Scrivener.

If there’s anything else you want to know about Scrivener that I haven’t covered yet, just ask in the comments and I’ll see how I can help. Thanks!

Working Faster in Scrivener with Auto-Complete List


So, you’re writing a novel, and you’ve foolishly chosen to name a character something like ‘DeGraaf’. All left-hand typing, two capitals. What a pain in the butt. Why, why would you do that? You’re going to have to re-type that name about four thousand times over the next hundred thousand words.

Well, fear not! You can always program macros into Microsoft Office so you can type shorthand into Word and it’ll automatically replace it for you.

But wait, you’re working in Scrivener? Me too! Here’s what you do now that macros aren’t an option. It’s a little thing called the Auto-Complete List.

You’ll find the Auto-Complete List in the menus by going Project -> Auto-Complete List, or by the handy dandy keyboard shortcut ctrl+shift+4. Then you’ll see the little pop-up menu in the pic above. Hit that plus button and you’ll get to put in a new word or phrase you find yourself retyping far too often, like ‘Auto-Complete List’, for instance.

Then go to Tools -> Options (or shortcut F12) and click on the Corrections icon. Make sure the Word Auto-Complete ‘Suggest completions as you type’ box is ticked, and untick the ‘In script mode only’ box (unless you’re working exclusively on scripts, I guess).

Then, start typing away. When you come to the word you need a shortcut for, type the first letter. If you only have one word on the Auto-Complete List that starts with that letter, you’ll see a little pop-up box with only that word in it. Hit enter and Scrivener finishes the word for you.

If you have more than one word, the pop-up box will have all those words listed in alphabetical order. You can use the arrow buttons to go down and back up the list. Highlight the word you need and hit enter. Or, start typing more letters. The list will get smaller as you type more. Narrow the list down to the one word you need and hit enter.

Did I mention that the Auto-Complete List is project specific? That way you can tailor your list to every new piece you work on. How cool is that.

Next topic – Enabling additional substitutions to mimic the Office macros across all your projects!

Fan Fic with my Son

Image by Vjeran Lisjak
Image by Vjeran Lisjak

My son and I are working on something together. He sees me writing and wants to get in on the act, so every once in a while he tells me ideas he has for a story that takes place in the Star Wars universe and I help him flesh it out into a story.

The thing is, sometimes I feel like he could do it all without me. He’s created an interesting character set (all original, too), and he’s got neat ideas for where the stories going to go. He’s even got some really funny stuff going on, like the meddlesome Jedi apprentices who take down a Sith Lord with a combination of laughing gas, marbles and whoopee cushions. That’s all him in his nine-year-old glory.

Anyway, he still wants me as the guy doing all the word processing, so I’m just glad I’m along for the ride. Thing is, he’ll call me on my writing style. And he’ll be right, too.

The other day we were reading through our work together when we came across this passage, in which our young heroine has to defend herself against one of those floating remote spheres that shoots out lasers that you try to parry with your lightsaber (see the original Star Wars film for reference):

Betsy put on the helmet. It was pitch black inside. She could not see a thing. The world had become eternal night, an endless abyss that swallowed her whole.

After he read that part, he gave me a sidelong glance and said, “Jeez, someone likes hyperbole.” Can’t get anything past this guy.

All Hands on the Poop Deck

Photo by Harpreet Padam
Photo by Harpreet Padam

My son turned nine recently. He has the honour of sharing his birthday with people like Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds actor), George Takei (the original Mr. Sulu), Luther Vandross (singer), Andy Serkis (Gollum), Crispin Glover (creepy), Stephen Marley (musician/son of Bob), Ryan O’Neal (actor), and Tito Puente (musician/no relation to Bob).

I only mention this because I’m tired of everyone pointing out that he also shares a birthday with Hitler, and I’d like to downplay that association as much as I can. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve had people point it out to me. Congratulations, your child was born on the same day as one of the biggest monsters in human history! is not exactly something parents want to hear.

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On Bird Brains, Etc.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Photo by Me!

English speakers don’t often ascribe intelligence to birds, quite likely for good reason. A cursory examination of bird-related figures of speech shows we call the dim-witted among us “bird brained,” sometimes dismissing them as “silly geese.” The long-extinct dodo is now synonymous with stupidity, and we safely assume that crows fly in straight lines because that’s all their little brains can comprehend. Rumour-mongers questioned about their sources often say “a little bird told me,” and the resulting lies they spread don’t remotely advance our appreciation of avian brainpower.

A bird in the hand (even a lame duck that’s no longer a spring chicken) is worth two in the bush, which you can kill with a single stone if you’re lucky; they’re so feeble-minded they likely won’t see it coming.

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